Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We Can Do It!

Time to get creative! Halloween is this weekend, and DIY ideas have been floating social media. In a multi-symbolic decision, this year I am going as Rosie the Riveter! (Image wise, it helps that I am coming into the costume already with dark hair, a decent scarf collection, strong arms, and pearl earrings, haha).

"A Bittersweet Lion"?
Having been in business now for three years, I hear myself saying frequently, "We Can Do It!" We are free to make our own choices, only limited by the terms and conditions of the contract. Several scenarios that came to fruition this year:
"Can you provide early spring color?" Yes, we can do that by adding bulbs in the berms.
"Is it possible to have coverage immediately?" We can do that!
"Can you deliver the WBE hours needed for this grant?" Yes we can, please add us to the team!
"By the way, can you prune back these vines, even though you are here to winterize my roof?" Absolutely, we can do that, too!

As a boutique firm, we are not limited to the proprietary blends and standard plant list
that many large manufacturers supply. And yet, it is empowering to warrant a variety of designs with performance standards in mind, with a maintenance program as general or custom as needed. 

So, going back to being creative! Walking trade show floors can be a great way to see how companies are being innovative and who they partner with. Since we are now in trade show season (starting with Cities Alive in early October) I'm offering free passes! Upcoming conferences include ASLA, Greenbuild, MRCA, and AIA. I can get you free passes to them all! Just reach out to me at:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Urban Growth and Habitat Preservation

Liatris blooming for bees on the Met Council's green roof in Empire, MN
Good afternoon, and Happy Fall!  Well, fall, at least according to Minnesota standards... The annual closing of the ever popular MN State Fair signals the end of summer, even if we still get to enjoy a few hot days!

I recently wrote an article for Sustainable City Network.  It's an online and printed media site that focuses on environmental topics important to planning agencies and policy makers. Their webinars have some some great information, too!

Click on my article entitled:

Striking a Balance: Urban Growth and Habitat Preservation

Friday, August 21, 2015

Plant with Purpose

We must be as busy as the bees these days! Sorry for my online absence, but in the land of 10,000+ lakes, we tend to cram as much into the growing season as possible.

As I talk to people about green roofs and land conservation, the more I hear myself saying "planting for purpose." I guess I enjoy the workhorse part of horticulture, meaning my preferences in beautiful plants stem from their ability to perform in a certain function. This could be edible fruit production, resources for pollinators, little need for maintenance, or selecting vegetation that has extensive root systems that help in eroded sites.

My selection of native perennials on green roofs (albeit limited based on soil depths) helps the pollinators who might have a hard time finding nectar and pollen in the urban environment. The grasses I choose for at grade landscape designs are ornamental, yet naturalized to the region, and growing asparagus along side them brings more diversity while keeping textural elements in the background.

This year I selected oregano and mint to be the trailing plants in the containers at my front door. I grow rainbow swiss chard and bok choy in my "ornamental" beds because it's protected just enough from the hot sun, and I can harvest at a moments notice. And, let me say that my "ornamental beds" are nothing more than columbine, bee balm, 'Karl Forester' and miscanthus grasses, black eye susan, chives, purple cone flower, a mini-blueberry shrub, and wild indigo. Nothing fancy!

For me, planting with purpose carries the weight of thinking of system goals: planting the right thing, in the right spot.
Enjoy the wild days of summer!
Target Center roof, in bloom (August)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What's happening with the Runoff?

My client asked me to check in on the data we are collecting at the Penfield Apartments in St. Paul, MN.  She was curious how the green roof was retaining storm water this year, compared to last year.
Hey, Minnesotans, remember when we had all the flooding last spring and early summer with record high rain falls? News reports highlighted that much of the problem came from runoff from impervious surfaces (roofs, parking lots, roads)- and nature had reached its carrying capacity.  I blogged about this dramatic event last year.
Take a look at how a vegetated roof can perform to alleviate the damage from stormwater runoff from impervious areas!  You can see that in a normal year (2015) green roofs designed with either 8" or 16" soil can retain almost, or all of, the rain.  However, even the extremes of 2014 spring, green roofs had already reached their saturated capacity and were only able to capture about half of the storm water.  The systems did detain the rain for several hours before runoff, however.

To get more information on this project, please visit AD Greenroof's project page .  To dive into this public data further and do you own comparisons, you can get direct access here!

You can always reach me direct:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Rolling Hills

Today's blog focuses on a new installation just planted in Eden Prairie, MN.  AD Greenroof was hired to design-build the nearly 2,000 sf semi-intensive with Aulik & Assoc. Last fall, our alternate proposal came in under budget (how often can you say that in our industry?! Haha).  So, we designed some berms and permanent irrigation to make this a really robust and diverse roof. The subtle berms mimic the surrounding landscape and are planted with native forbs and naturalized spring bulbs. We partnered with an installer, Refuge Landscape, and purchased materials from Hanging Gardens.
Beautiful Course!
The client is Olympic Hills Golf Course.  They are undergoing a major renovation around their property incorporating native plantings. The addition where we installed the green roof is visible from the restaurant and patio; and will be a common backdrop during weddings. During the installation, we had many curious and excited onlookers- during rain and shine. One member commented, "Every day is like Christmas out here!"

Below are a few site photos for your viewing pleasure :)  Please contact me if you have any questions about this project or green roofs in general!  This project is also posted on our webpage!
Nice blend of succulents
Craning soil

Graded growing media

Conventional drip and pre-grown succulents

Just installed, view from the landing by the patio

Berms planted with natives in the background

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What is a Virtual Summit?

Marketing departments often weigh the pros and cons of participating in trade shows.  Shows take planning (which ones are the best to reach target markets), cost money to develop a good booth, staff time, and usually travel costs.  In addition to planning, working the show, and attending, there is the follow up after.  And, what is the return on investment? How can you measure if the new relationships will lead to business? What about existing clients and getting face time with them at the show?

As we rely more on the digital world for business, trade shows face increased scrutiny from business leaders in measuring their effectiveness.  Linda Velazquez is the creative and business arm behind, our industry supported website. I was introduced to her early in my career, when I was still in MSU's grad school program, at my first green roof trade show and conference.  Several years ago she and her team launched a Virtual Summit- a low cost and travel-free alternative to attending a trade show.

This year, she asked me to prepare a presentation of my choosing, record it, and make some videos to introduce and close the presentation.  During the summit, you can watch numerous other presenters, chat with sponsors, and enter the virtual trade show to learn more about the companies.  Cool, huh? I loved the experience of preparing the presentation, learning how to record it, and using my phone and computer to video a trailer.

My presentation is called Pollinators on Parapets.  Here’s the YouTube trailer preview. To register for the 2015 Virtual Summit, just click the hyperlink. And to follow up from the summit, Linda wrote an excellent summary of the presentation in her Sky Gardens blog!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Make it Quick!

Geum in bloom
Like many people in my industry, I love this time of year.  The roofs are waking up, we get back out to the field to explore the new growth, and evaluate any problems that might have occurred over winter. Last week I was fortunate enough to get out to five local roofs to clean up organic matter, collect soil samples, and take a few snapshots of some early blooms.

This is also an ideal installation time for green roofs! AD Greenroof is working on a small installation this week in Eden Prairie, MN. Over winter we contracted by a design-build firm in town to design a green roof - this one includes irrigation, berms, Sedum and natives. I anticipate lots of pollinators will be visiting this site, too!

Native strawberries on Target Center
Last month we were part of a 5,000 sf agricultural roof installation in Chicago. It's a wonderful project with high visibility. I look forward to hearing more about the crops they grow, what is successful and how they will use it in the restaurant they are building below.

I'm keeping this post short because it is too nice today to be stuck to a computer!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Raise it up for Agriculture!

Are you thinking about a garden plan this year? We started sowing some seeds in my basement last weekend for the at grade community garden, and am completely excited about the upcoming season!

I am also excited about the increased interest in edible rooftop gardening in the Midwest.  It takes a special client's vision and the right structural loads, but the concepts of growing herbs, vegetables, and some fruits on our rooftops has become more than a dream for some!

High altitude farming offers many options to meet short and long term goals for my clients.  As we work together to complete feasibility studies, our conversations focus on the roof program. I have a client who wants to grow hops on the roof. This will provide her with a trellis structure and shade for the employees and visitors. She has talked about marketing a beer tasting that will incorporate the mature hops as part of the learning experience for the guests.  AD Greenroof has another client with somewhat limited with structural loads, so we will be planning container gardening in the areas we can have more weight, and simplify other permanent vegetated roof systems in limited dead load areas. Both clients are working to resolve the accessibility to their roofs, and can break the budget on some buildings, but it is important to get safe access for the employees and visitors.

These two examples are just the start of the larger discussions we are starting to have about the management of high altitude agriculture. Use of organic practices, cover crops, honeybees, selecting plants for products, and creating a harvesting area are just the start of some considerations as we finalize the budget. Stay tuned to see if and where these project go and grow!

Use of passive irrigation and straw bales to grow herbs and veggies

Vertical gardening?
Check out our updated website at to learn more about our services and cool projects!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Garden Grows in January

Students periodically ask me about my job or how green roofs work. Below is an excerpt Q&A from a high school student inquiring about starting gardening club at school that I thought I'd share.

1) Why do you think that gardening is important to society?
There are many ways to describe gardening and what it means for different people. For some, they do it as a form of exercise and to be social, others enjoy the beautification of the containers and plans they put together and maintain. I take a very practical approach in that I want to grow plants for purpose- food for us, a habitat source for pollinators, and a way to mitigate the built environment.  Giving up turf grass and replacing it with plants that produce food, flavors, scents, color, and texture is very exciting and serves as a way to be self reliant.

2) What do you think the best part of a garden is?
I think the harvest is great, and educating others on the harvest is equally important. Knowing when something is ripe and how to eat it, or what the flowers are best to pick for a lasting bouquet, and how to share them with others is incredibly rewarding!

3) Is there anything else you would like to say?
Understanding where your food comes from is very important to society.  You may not personally enjoy a garden or farm, but you certainly rely on it for your meals.  Knowing what land management decisions are made by your neighbor does affect you, so knowing the basics of growing food in our ecosystem is vitally important regardless of your age. In 2001, I was interviewed by a student wondering about genetically modified foods.  My statement was the same- understand where your food comes from.  She laughed at me at the time, but has grown up to make educated choices on where to buy foods.  In our communities, we should be able to talk to the growers at farmers markets, buy food from the farms that share how they manage their crops, and choose to eat at restaurants that source local (or grow on their roofs!).
Food Roof
Gardening is fun, and you might meet some new people along the way who enjoy the same!